Fourth Annual Festival

Struggling to Survive

07:37 min
Youth Documentary
Director: Dana Hall, Ashley Potter and Mary Profitt
Producer: Appalshop's Appalachian Media Institute

Winner of the Youth Documentary Award
Sponsored by Time Warner Foundation


More About Struggling to Survive from Producer Appalshop

Struggling to Survive was produced during the Summer of 2003 during Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute, a community-media based training program for Eastern Kentucky youth ages 15-20. During the summer and fall of 2003, Mary Profitt, Dana Hall and Ashley Potter conceptualized, shot and edited this documentary video. In addition to Mary, Dana and Ashley, many other people helped make this video a reality including everyone who sat down for an interview, Appalshop filmmakers and other employees who offered their advice and encouragement, fellow Summer and Fall 2003 interns and the AMI trainers.

The youth were inspired to make this video when they learned about a Letcher County initiative to pass a living wage ordinance. They were surprised to learn that a city, county or state could pass their own minimum wage law that overruled the federal one, and they were impressed by the fact that Letcher County, a small county in Eastern Kentucky where they all lived, was pursuing this idea. While still in the research phase, the youth talked to Carroll Smith, Letcher County’s top elected official and a proponent of a living wage, to get a sense of the history of the proposed ordinance. But it wasn’t until they spoke with Debbie Gibson, a single mother trying to raise two children on a low wage job, that they were convinced that this documentary had to be made. 

After the original proposed ordinance failed in 1999, many of the members of the newly elected Fiscal Court, the decision-making body of Letcher County, ran their campaigns on a living wage platform. However, when the ordinance came up for a new vote last year, they succumbed to pressure from local business leaders and voted down the ordinance once again. Carroll Smith has vowed to continue making the successful passage of a Letcher County living wage ordinance a priority.

For two years, Debbie Gibson enjoyed a comfy job cleaning office buildings (with benefits), until early last year when she was cut to half time w/o benefits. At the time she appeared in the video she was looking for other work. Since then she has returned to her position as a cashier at the local grocery store, the same place she had worked for 15 years prior.

Struggling to Survive is a winner of the See Change Make Change contest held by, the first comprehensive Web portal for youth media distribution.


Fourth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival, economic justice, human rights, media, youth
Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivative Works